trapeze“Congratulations on your promotion! You’re now the manager! Off you go and keep up the good work!”

Quite often that’s about as much direction and support you can expect having successfully landed the promotion you’ve been busily chasing ever since your predecessor packed his bags, or had his/her bags packed for them, or the business restructured presenting a new manager vacancy.

Your peers give you a pat on the back or a tongue-in-cheek “pay out” of sorts and trust that you won’t let the position go to your head or change you. You reassure them you’ll still be the same old friend and the door will be open for them anytime.

Several weeks pass and you wonder what on earth you’ve gotten yourself into – all the questions, dealing with people problems and dramas that take up time and energy and have you working back late or coming in early just to stay on top. The pressures rise at home to keep your promises of being home in time to help out with the kids. The pay rise and more responsibility hardly seem worth it now – you want to return to your old job or get out but you can’t – you’re stuck. You have two choices: plan to succeed or plan to fail.

The irony is the plan to fail is a lot easier plan to conjure up – all you need to do is nothing. Just keep doing what you’re currently doing or stop doing it all together. Unfortunately, both actions will end in you failing in your new role as manager.

The plan to succeed takes more thinking, feeling and effort but will be a lot more rewarding for you and your team. I suggest the following five (5) key steps:

  1. Reflect and Accept – It may seem exaggerated but human beings tend to experience change in the same way they experience grief (a progression of stages through Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance). Sure, getting a promotion on the surface seems totally the opposite to the loss of a loved one and in no way the same level of significance but your emotional response can take a similar cycle especially if what was expected to be such a positive change turns out to be a lot more challenging and threatening in reality shortly afterwards and you feel your failing with no escape.

To avoid the scenario above, take some time for yourself to ‘reflect’ on what has occurred to get you to where you are now as a new manager. Recognise and acknowledge your strengths and experiences that have won you this opportunity and reward yourself for that. This will help your confidence and give you the self-assurance that you deserve to ‘accept’ the challenge to step up and get you distinguishing the differences that you must consider in moving forward into your role as manager.

  1. Get a Mentor or Coach – If you haven’t already got one, find a mentor or a coach. Progressing from peer to manager is like being a star player being picked to go up a grade. Your skills and experience have got you there but you’re going to need to keep learning and building yourself to make it at that next level too. Though it can be a lonely experience at first, many others have gone before you and succeeded. The key is to learn as many of the hard knocks they had before you have them so you reduce the amount of knocks you get – yes there will still be knocks along the way! It also gives you an opportunity to disclose your thoughts and feelings of vulnerability with a trusted confidante instead of a fellow colleague or manager, thereby not undermining your managerial capability or confidence at the work front.
  2. Goals & Roles – The next step is to set and clarify goals and roles. This is both personally and for the team. Unless you’re the CEO, you’re still going to be reporting to a manager above you and so it’s important you meet and discuss with them what the direction, responsibilities and deliverables are for you and your team to achieve or contribute to as part of the bigger picture. This will ensure you don’t go reinventing the wheel unnecessarily and provide you with a clearer perspective of what your personal and team goals and roles need to be in order to be aligned. Whilst you can set your own personal goals and roles, you should consult with your team regarding their goals and roles so that they have buy-in and ownership and will be more likely to engage and contribute accordingly.
  3. Use SCARF Model – NeuroLeadership Founder, David Rock has provided a simple model which enables people to better understand and label the drivers of ‘threat’ and ‘reward’ responses for people in social interactions.

In short, the SCARF model involves five domains of human social experience: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. These five domains activate either a reward or threat response in the brain. The result of which motivates the subsequent behaviour of the person in their social interactions with the team.

Status – recognise employees doing good job to reward status and desired behaviours of team members. Typically, “praise in public, scold in private” to maximise reward and reduce threat accordingly in this domain.

Certainty – be transparent, open, honest and consistent in communication and your behaviours and expect the same from your team. This provides a “high-trust” and informed team that knows or has more certainty around what’s happening next.

Autonomy – don’t micromanage your team. If you provide clear goals and roles for them and allow for them to initiate and own ideas and their decisions, you will enable them to be better contributors to the team.

Relatedness – it’s important you connect with each team member and relate to them as a person, not just a worker. If your company has corporate values, its important you demonstrate these. It’s also important that you communicate with your team what you expect of them and what they can expect of you now as the manager. This provides the opportunity to start with a clean slate and reset the boundaries from when you were a peer to now as manager. Ideally ask your team what they expect of you. This will help you maintain strong relationships with your peers but also acknowledge and clarify that your position and responsibilities have changed and so your type of relationship may need to change or consider that in certain situations.

Fairness – be consistent and fair with your team. Favouritism and biases can be dangerous. Seeking feedback from your team and enabling sharing of information, being accountable and holding others to account goes a long way towards everyone understanding and perceiving fairness within the team.

  1. Celebrate Success – A key trait of any high performing team is they celebrate successes together. It reinforces the importance of working towards and achieving the set goals and recognises that each team member has had their role to play. Done appropriately it provides strong reward to the domains of status, relatedness and fairness and provides more certainty for you and the team in being confident of backing yourselves to achieve future success. Also on the plus side, it gives you as the manager an appropriate opportunity to rejoin your peers for a few beers!

Further Reading:


stephen biddleThis guest post is written by Stephen Biddle. Stephen has worked with Sal since 2012 when he sought her coaching services as he took on his own challenge of transitioning career roles and simultaneously becoming a father. With his passion for leadership and currently studying an MBA, Stephen is inspired to offer his knowledge and insights to others who may be experiencing their own career or life challenges. 

With over 10 years of experience as a qualified HR Professional, Stephen started his career as a HR Graduate with Australia’s largest local government organisation, Brisbane City Council before going on to work in the private sector as a HR Advisor for Leighton Contractors, Port of Brisbane and as a management consultant for Shape Consulting. Now as the Northern Region HR Manager for McConnell Dowell Constructors, Stephen’s objective is to utilise his solid operational and generalist capability developed as a HR Advisor and HR Manager to partner with business leaders to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the Management of people.